Over five months have passed since Ma Long last completed a match of international Table Tennis: his round of 32 defeat to Liam Pitchford at the ITTF World Tour Bulgaria Open on 16 August 2018.
Since then, the reigning World and Olympic Champion had to withdraw from the 2018 Swedish and Austrian Opens, rule himself out of the 2018 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals, and he did not feature either in last week’s Hungarian Open in Budapest.
With exactly three months remaining until the World Table Tennis Championships kick off in the Hungarian capital, it appears that Ma Long faces a real race against the clock to be ready in time to defend his title.
President of the Chinese Table Tennis Association, Liu Guoliang, had this to say about the Chinese superstar’s injury situation, in an interview to CCTV reporter Li Wujun:
“When Ma Long injured his knee last year, at first he did not realise that it was especially serious. He thought that he would be able to make a quick recovery.
However, as his knee started to hurt more and more, the Chinese team decided to pull him out of the Hungarian Open. They have hired a professional medical team and fitness team to help him, but it will take some time to make a full recovery.
Ma Long is personally very eager to play again as soon as possible. Every day he is in training, doing physical exercise and working on skills.
I’ve told him that our ultimate goal is to be ready for 2020. We should be patient now and work towards a full recovery further down the line. We need to pay attention about how and when to use and rest our players, especially the relatively older ones.”
The World Table Tennis Championships will be held between 21-28 April 2019 in Budapest, Hungary. Ma Long has taken part in the sport’s biggest annual event every year since 2006.